Bespoke experience the key at welcoming Knightsbrook
People power making all the difference at splendid Meath resort
They say only the strong survive but there's a lot more to the success of Knightsbook Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort than its refurbished rooms or the beautifully manicured Christy O'Connor Jnr designed golf course.
The secret to coming through one of the toughest economic downturns ever experienced by the Irish golf industry lies in its greatest asset - its people.
Return business is the lifeblood of any business and Knightsbrook, which is situated just three minutes from historic Trim in Co Meath, has enjoyed no shortage of loyalty from its customers since it opened 13 years ago.
"We have a high retention of staff, and they know the customers who come back year after year," said General Manager, Patrick Curran, who started work at the resort two years before it opened to the public in 2006.
"I might not know the personal tastes of all our customers, but our staff do, and they go out of their way to look after them.
This week, Knightsbrook hosts the AIG Ladies Cup and Shields Finals for the fourth time, and Patrick is looking forward to seeing the action up close, even if fishing is more his game than golf.
"We are delighted to have the ladies back again," he said this week as the 30 finalists gathered for four days of golfing action. "We get a huge number of spectators, and the competition is as intense as any event I see on television. And it is such a well-oiled machine with the ILGU's Sandra Barnett at the helm.
"As regards the course, we have upgraded bunkers, our machinery, two bridges and a weir on the fourth hole that's a salmon run on the Knightsbook River, which is a tributary of the River Boyne.
"We have had inland fisheries out to look at restoring the weir so the salmon can move more freely.
"Drainage works are on- going and even with all the rain we have had this week, we have no issues with wet fairways and the course itself is constantly under review.
"We have added several extra tees so that high handicap players can enjoy their golf as much as the better golfers rather than struggling off the back tees."
As for the downturn, the resort persevered through the tough times and business is going well thanks to its long-serving staff.
"The downturn was a challenge for us as it was for many others but he made sure we kept our standards up and our Head Greenkeeper Ronan Carey, who has been with us since 2004, two years before the courses opened, has made sure the course is always in perfect condition," Patrick explains.
"We have 300 members, and we are almost at capacity at weekends, but the hotel has 131 rooms, and we do a lot of business with visitors from the UK.
"In fact, we had Icelandic golfers visit for the first time last week when we also had the Flogas Irish Junior Championships.
"We started a Junior section two years ago with 50 active members, and that's been something hugely positive for us with members such as our Lady Captain, Angela Reilly, giving up their time to help the young players."
While weddings are hugely popular, society golf remains a cornerstone of the resort's business and returning customers prove they are doing things well.
Clubhouse manager Amanda Golden is the key figure when it comes to welcoming visitors to a venue that allows visitors to explore the joys of Co Meath with Trim Castle and the nearby abbey just two of its historical attractions.
"Amanda has been here since day one and so too has Ronan. They have been through all the challenges, and I guess hospitality and perseverance are our best qualities," Patrick explains.
"As regards the hotel, we have upgraded 30 bedrooms on the second floor and plan to refurbish another 30 next spring. It is important to continue to refurbish constantly, and we spend €100,000 every year upgrading the golf course, planting and improving drainage."
The hotel is only minutes away from the Hill of Tara and Bective Abbey and the world heritage site at Newgrange is also close by.
With 14 water features arising from the nine lakes and the Knightsbrook River, stunning Creeping Bent greens and a top-quality clubhouse, conference centre, health club and spa, four-star Knightsbrook has everything.
It's a challenging course for golfers of all levels and the perfect venue for the annual showcase of ladies amateur golf.
Green fees: Midweek Off Peak - €30; Weekend Off Peak €35. Midweek Peak €35; Weekend Peak €45.
Society rates: Midweek from €30 per person; Weekend from €35 per person. Minimum numbers 12.
Buggy hire: €40.
Club hire: €20 per set
Electric trolleys with built in GPS €15.
Electric trolleys: €10.
Range Balls: No
Signature hole: 18th Par 3 143 yards
With water to carry all th eway to the green, you can play safe and play out to the right of try to leave yourself a makable birdie putt by going for the pin.
Membership rates: 2020 full membership from €1200.
Nearby clubs: Co Meath, Kilcock, Killeen Castle, Royal Tara, Moyvalley, Rathcore.